March 20, 2005 at 4:46 pm #821
Does anyone recall the history and whereabouts of the Liv Base, which was operating in November 1959?
BobMarch 20, 2005 at 5:55 pm #8067
I was in Antarctica over the winter in 1959, but I never heard of anything called the Liv Base. Do you have any additional information about the place? Where did you hear about it? I might be able to help if you tell me whatever you know about it.March 20, 2005 at 9:41 pm #8068
Thanks for your reply. I think I have solved the problem thanks to your response. I went back and looked at the exact reference I had made so I could reply to you. (I am preparing a book of some of the photographs I took on a trip to the Antarctic in November 1959. I also had a small dictating machine with me and kept a ‘log’ of the trip.) Here is the excerpt with the Liv reference:
“At the foot of the Beardmore, we detoured briefly to fly over the Liv Camp of the U.S. It is a small isolated outpost and not one of our more important bases here in the Antarctic. We circled very low and could clearly see the men.”
As a result I just did a search including both Liv and Beardmore, and immediate came up with the following:
“On Tuesday both R4D’s flew to the campsite at the Beardmore Glacier and after unloading cargo we immediately took off for the abandoned campsite at the foot of the Liv Glacier in order to move the fuel and cargo left there the previous summer. The old campsite was found to be intact with no visible damage from the severe winter just passed. Even the Christmas tree which had been placed outdoors on a snow hummock the preceding December had not lost its needles. It must have frozen while still green and while the sap in the tree had not dried out every needle still clung tenaciously on the tree. 72 We retrieved about 3,500 pounds of cargo, which included several drums of diesel fuel. We tried to extricate the snow kitten from the ice but it was frozen into the surface too firmly. When we returned to the camp at the foot of the Beardmore Glacier we shut down the aircraft, planning to continue our resupply flights in the morning.
There was considerable confusion in every ones mind as to the name of both remote campsites. When DeepFreeze II was first planned a relay site was included in the Operations Order and it was scheduled to be located at the foot of the Beardmore Glacier. 73 When the pilots approached the proposed site at the foot of the Beardmore they thought it to be too rough for landing, so they proceeded eastward until they reached a satisfactory spot at the foot of the Liv Glacier. Since the Operations Order listed the camp as Beardmore Station that was the name in went by all through the first summer. DeepFreeze IIIs Operations Order switched the name of the second summer’s relay station to Liv Station, so even though we relocated the station to the foot of the Beardmore Glacier the name it went by was Liv Station. So Beardmore Station was at the Liv Glacier and Liv Station was at the foot of the Beardmore Glacier. As a result throughout the rest of the summer you didn’t always know which station someone might be thinking of when they mentioned it by name and not by location. “
When I had done a search for just ‘Liv’ earlier today all I came up with were hundreds of references to Liv Arnesen, the lady who in 2001 crossed the Antarctic with Ann Bancroft.
So many thanks for your help. We probably both know more about the Liv Station now than most of rest of the world!
Might you be able to identify some people for me in the photos from 1959, and might you have the time to look?
Thanks and best regards
BobMarch 20, 2005 at 11:04 pm #8064
Interesting story. Glad I was able to help you. I’d be happy to look at the photos if you’ll tell me where I can see them.March 21, 2005 at 1:47 am #8065
I did some in-depth googling for this and found Noel Gillespie’s web page, which also talks a bit about Liv Camp:
Maybe you could collaborate with him?
Air travel around the continent is still considered dicey, but by his accounts those were some very rough-and-tumble (literally!) days of exploration.
Cool beans.March 23, 2005 at 6:00 pm #8066
Thanks for pointing out that very interesting article by Noel Gillespie. There was one paragraph in particular that caught my eye. It was:
“On many occasions the VX-6 Squadron pilots encountered whiteouts, which resembles a heavy fog. Caused by sunlight penetrating white cloud mass, reaching the snow then bouncing black and forth between the cloud and snow. This quirk of nature reduces visibility to zero and is conducive to vertigo.”
That description is close, but not quite right. As seen from an aircraft flying below the cloud layer, the whiteout might appear to be fog, but that is an illusion. And visibility is not zero although that also appears to be true since there is no depth perception.
There are two fundamentally distinct conditions that people refer to as whiteout. One is the true whiteout where the air is perfectly clear and the air is calm with no blowing snow. The other is a blizzard where, up to an altitude of five hundred feet or so, a high gusty wind is blowing snow in all directions with so much snow in the air that you cannot see your hand a few inches in front of your face. Blizzard conditions are very common in the Antarctic and they can happen in summer when it is light or in winter when it is dark. But a true whiteout is very rare. I was fortunate to experience one. Let me describe the phenomenon as best I can.
The air is clear but the sky is overcast with a layer of thick cloud that extends, lets say, five hundred miles from where you’re standing. The sun is very low and, from your location, it’s completely hidden by the cloud cover. Out at the edge of the cloud cover sunlight shines on the surface snow under the cloud. Snow is a lousy reflector of light, but it’s a very good diffuser or scatterer. The sunlight that falls on the snow near the edge of the cloud cover is scattered by the snow up toward the clouds. The clouds are also very poor at reflecting light but very good at scattering it. So the scattered light from the snow is again scattered off the clouds back down toward the snow where it is again scattered upward and so on. In simplistic terms the sunlight is following a kind of zigzag path bouncing back and forth between surface snow and cloud as it approaches you. By the time the light reaches you after having been scattered and re-scattered many times, its intensity is the same in every incoming direction. This is the critical attribute of a whiteout. To the observer it’s like being inside a uniformly illuminated ping pong ball. Since the air is perfectly clear, your visibility is essentially unlimited. If there is a real object out there, you can see it clearly. But there is no horizon and you have no depth perception. You cannot tell the difference between a match box ten feet away and a railway car a hundred yards away although you can see them both clearly. Every such thing you see appears to be suspended in a blank whiteness. There are no shadows. You cannot see the surface that you’re walking on. Everything, up down straight ahead and in every direction is dead featureless white. Every step you take is like the last step on a flight of stairs in the dark. You move your foot to take a step but you cannot tell when your foot will stop until it physically encounters the surface. Since the snow surface can be very rough (sastrugi), you tend to fall down a lot if you’re not extremely careful.
Birds have been known to fly into the ground.
A true whiteout cannot occur in the darkness of the polar winter. Nor can it occur anywhere on earth except in the polar regions since a continuous landscape of white surface snow is required to produce the effect. As I said, blizzards are common, but whiteouts have been seen by only the lucky few.March 28, 2005 at 8:42 pm #8069
Dear Glenn and Mirage
Thanks for the link to Gillespie’s piece. Very interesting and it brought home again the risks of Antarctic aviation.
I am working on a selection of photos for the book now ,and when I get some scans I would like to be in touch with you. What is the best way to contact you?
BobMarch 29, 2005 at 6:14 pm #8070March 29, 2005 at 11:21 pm #8071
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